Adventures in Asia: Lombok, Indonesia (part 1)
Very unglamorous solo travelling adventures in Asia
I embarked on my Asian adventures without really having a concrete plan. My first stop on the solo adventure is Lombok, Indonesia, where I am doing a PADI SCUBA open water diving course with Dive Zone/Two Fish.
Firstly, let me say: travelling solo into the unknown without much of a clear idea of where I’m going and when, scares the shit out of me. I have travelled alone before and even to Indonesia before — I briefly visited Bali last year — but I know this is different. I don’t have a return ticket and I want to play things by ear. The immigration officer in Jakarta airport was not very impressed by this but he let me pass.
On the way here I broke several of my own travel rules — I used 3 different airlines to fly TRD — AMS — CGK — LOP, and I had to collect my luggage each time. I didn’t do an online check in for the long haul flight from Europe to Indonesia. Miraculously, the passengers in my row didn’t show so I went from having an aisle seat to 3 seats all to myself and slept pretty well, as though I was in a bed! Without online check in I couldn’t order a special meal, but I found a helpful crew member who managed to scrape together vegetables for both a dinner and a breakfast (potatoes, baked beans, tomatoes, asparagus). I felt like a queen. I also found someone to help me figure out how to change terminals in Jakarta via a shuttle bus (couldn’t find signs about this anywhere!). All in all, things worked out better than expected for feeling very unprepared.
Of course, my adventures would not be complete without some delays! After sitting in CGK for a couple of hours (message boards were no help), the flight finally arrived in Lombok International Airport. I had arranged with the dive resort to fetch me from the airport, but once I entered the arrivals area I was bombarded with shouts of “Taxi! Taxi!” and could not see a pickup sign anywhere. I realised I needed to find an ATM as I had little IDR leftover from my last trip to Indonesia. After a few attempts of cash withdrawal, my bank card was blocked (despite having authorised it for use in Asia before departing on my trip), and only managed to withdraw a little. I had to phone my Norwegian bank to unblock it (not a cheap call). I then phoned the dive resort contact who directed me to my pickup driver (yay!). Unfortunately, I had had no food on the plane and was told by the driver that there would be no food in Sekotong by the time we arrived. A small pitstop at a mini market was not very successful as I left with a bag of peanuts. We then proceeded to drive for nearly 2 hours on increasingly narrower unlit roads. It seemed endless but I finally made it to the resort, a little hangry and a little stressed. I discovered a giant gecko (making very odd noises), a large green praying mantis and some ants who had made a nest in my bathtub.
The next morning I had an early(ish) 7:30 start with a breakfast of fruit and black coffee. The filter coffee is just stirred into hot water without any filters but it tastes pretty damn good. After some paperwork, my dive instructor started on the review and first debriefing. I practiced setting up my gear a few times. There was no electricity for most of the day which meant there was also no mobile reception. I finally got into the water for my first “confined” dive in the sea at around 15:30. My instructor directed me to practice some skills and then we went for a short dive! I struggled with buoyancy and didn’t quite manage the safety stop after my dive at max 12m for 55 mins. I even went over backwards from the boat! All in all, I was quite pleased with myself.
In the evening, some guests were having their last night, so we headed over on a boat to Pearl Beach Resort on an island not far from the dive resort. As the boat cruised through the dark night, the water was lit with brilliant blue glittering diamonds of bioluminescence under a starry moonlit sky silhouetted with the hills of nearby islands. It was incredibly beautiful and magical and a memory I will treasure forever. Some of the more experienced divers here recommended I do the Advanced course so that I can do a night dive and dive in the bioluminescent water…
Being underwater is a little terrifying. There are loads of things to remember and be aware of, but as my instructor keeps saying: diving is a lazy sport, so slow it down. In many ways these challenges I am facing now are vital to my growth: I used to have chronic asthma and very poor lung conditions so even attempting this course now is a huge victory (yes, I had the proper medical sign off first!). In addition to this, I have not been a huge fan of swimming or being underwater, so facing this has been very rewarding. Having no proper travel plan is also new for me and living in the moment, embracing wherever I am now, is still a lesson I am learning. Isbjørn, the solitary polar bear, is evolving.